Long-Tailed Salamander

Eurycea longicauda longicauda

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Photo of a long-tailed salamander on a rotten log.
The long-tailed salamander is agile and can escape predators by using its tail for quick jumps.
Alan Grant, Dept. Environmental Protection, Bugwood.org
Family

Plethodontidae (lungless salamanders) in the order Caudata (salamanders)

Description

A medium-sized salamander with a long tail. It is usually yellow but may vary from greenish yellow to orange yellow. The belly is plain yellow. There are dark brown or black markings and spots along the back and sides. Prominent vertical bars are present on the tail. There are 13 or 14 costal grooves (vertical grooves on the sides of the body).

Similar species: The dark-sided salamander subspecies (Eurycea longicauda melanopleura) has large amounts of dark pigment along the sides, from the head onto the tail, and has larger and more numerous dark spots on the back. The sides are often spotted with white flecks. The vertical bars on the tail may have irregular fine or wavy lines. Ground color varies from yellowish green to yellowish brown. The belly is dull yellow with numerous dark flecks.

Size

Adult length: 4–6¼ inches.

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Photo of a dark-sided salamander on a rock.
Dark-Sided Salamander
The dark-sided salamander subspecies has large amounts of dark pigment along the sides.

Long-Tailed Salamander

A yellow salamander with black spots is on a broad green leaf.
Long-Tailed Salamander
Habitat and conservation

This species usually lives under rocks near streams, springs, and seepages in forested areas. It also occurs in caves. These salamanders are quite agile and can escape predators by using their tails for quick jumps. They also wave their tails to draw a predator’s attention away from the head. The tails easily twist off, allowing the salamander to escape. This species is primarily nocturnal but is sometimes seen on days following heavy rains.

Foods

Various small arthropods (insects, spiders, and similar invertebrate animals).

image of Long-Tailed Salamander Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Restricted to southeastern Missouri but not in the Mississippi Lowlands of the Bootheel. The dark-sided salamander subspecies occurs throughout most of southern and eastern Missouri.

Life cycle

Courtship occurs in or near springs or cool, rocky creeks between November and early March. Fertilization is internal, and each female may produce up to 60 eggs. These are laid in small clumps or in a single row beneath rocks along the edge of springs or creeks, or in shallow water. The larvae are dark and aquatic and may require more than two months to transform. Then, it may take up to 2 years to reach adulthood.

Human connections

Because of an ancient, mythical, erroneous belief that associated salamanders with fire, the word “salamander” has became the term for a specialized broiler, something like a huge toaster oven, used for grilling foods in restaurant kitchens.

Ecosystem connections

These and other lungless salamanders are integral parts of the forested streams, springs, and seeps they occupy. As predators, they help control the numbers of the insects and other creatures they eat. As prey, the adults, eggs, and young help feed larger predators.